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Big Fish

  • 2003
  • PG-13
  • 125min
  • 77%
  • 8 / 10

In his deathbed, a former traveling salesman tells fanciful stories of his youth involving giants, witches, and circus to his estranged son. His son, however, looks for what is behind his father’s tall tales.

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Director Tim Burton prefers his films shot in sets rather than CGI, especially for Big Fish. He says in an interview with Animation World Network, “because it’s about stories and stuff and I didn’t want it to get too [overdone] cause I have a problem with some CG anyway. We have some effects that are CG, but it's really minimal. Even with the conjoined twins, we didn't do a lot of CG. The more you can do yourself, the better because it [cumulatively] loses impact. You know, somewhere in your brain it’s not real. So, there was a kind of funkiness and hand-made, old-fashioned feel that was appropriate to this anyways. The digital timing and digital effects that we have, we tried to base it on something we've done to solidify the look we were after. I could see you could go too far with this, so we tried to keep it where it fits the material.

Big Fish movie review

The undercurrent in Tim Burton's work is that the mundane trappings of reality are not enough. Fantasy is, therefore, necessary. It is nothing short of destiny that the script of Big Fish fell onto the director's lap.

In the film adaptation of the Daniel Wallace novel of the same name, Burton has found a medium to express his obsession with fantasy's relationship with reality. Along with the director's visual sensibilities and offbeat choices, Big Fish is a charming and witty tale that ends in a moving conclusion of a father and a son's estranged relationship. His approach to bringing the over-the-top tales of a dying man to life is reminiscent of the old-American tradition of storytelling.

In Big Fish, Edward Bloom shares tall tales that can only give Burton déjà vu like a town stuck in the 50s or spider infested forests. Bloom's other fanciful misadventures with conjoined Korean caberet singers, an old werewolf and a gentle giant are permeated with affection for the outsiders. The director's twisted sense of humor is not lost in these overly sentimental characters. From the Edward shooting between his mother's legs and onto a hospital corridor, to his run-in with the Korean military, Burton succeeds in delivering a consistent stream of laughable absurdity. 

The bi-product of these tales, however, is that the characters feel distant. One would think that, underneath their bizarre physicality, are characters we can all relate to.

In the end, Big Fish is more than Tim Burton's culmination of his visual sensibility and emotional approach to scoring a film. In this piece, he  is able to cross the bridge between fantasy and reality, delivering a piece that is in touch with deeper concerns. He addresses the fact that children, albeit reluctant, accept their parents' short comings. At the same time, he closes with a message of how emotional truths can overthrow ones longing for facts. The film is humorous and heartfelt yet can open up feelings of sadness and regret. It is one of Burton's most entertaining  and personal pieces.

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about the movie

Big Fish (2003) is an American fantasy comedy-drama film based on the Daniel Wallace novel of the same name. The film’s theme of reconciliation between a dying father and his son was significant to its director, Tim Burton, as his father had died in 2000 then his mother in 2002. Its ensemble of peculiar characters is led by Ewan Mcgregor as the young Edward Bloom. Other roles are performed by Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Marion Cotillard, Steve Buscemi, Helena Bonham Carter, Matthew McGrory, Alison Lohman, and Danny DeVito. The cast and crew shot on location in Alabama in order to evoke a tone of a Southern Gothic fantasy through a series of fairy tale vignettes. The film was both a commercial and critical success, receiving nominations from several major award-winning bodies, namely Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts or BAFTA, Saturn Awards, and Grammy Awards. Film critic, James Berardinelli, calls the film “a clever, smart fantasy that targets the child inside every adult.”